Marian Mundorff (Women in World War II)


Mrs. Marian (Snelbaker) Mundorff was born on August 26, 1927 in Mechanisburg, Pennsylvania. She has two sisters and one brother. Her father owned his own factory which was called Snelbaker Manufacturing Company. During the war, his factory made work shirts for the Navy. During the war, she was a teenager who lived in Mechanicsburg, attended school, and became a messenger for blackouts. Mrs. Mundorff later married and had three children. She is currently living in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.


Mrs. Mundorff started by talking about her reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and where she was when she heard the news. She described the routine of blackouts her duties as a messenger during blackouts. She recounted that in Girl Scouts, they learned first aid and made bandages at the hospital.

She talked about the changing of teachers and how some of them left to enlist in the armed forces. Her school participated in scrap drives and bond sales. During the interview, she showed how they squashed the cans. Mrs. Mundoff discussed some of the difficulties of daily life due to rationing and the problem of gas for people who needed to drive.

Her mother was a plane spotter and her father’s factory also helped the war effort. She had a brother who was in the Navy during the war. She ended the interview by discussing the end of the war, the feelings of the community during the war years, and by providing more detail about the blackouts.


The following transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview that is available from the library of the Cumberland County Historical Society located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The project’s intent in transcribing the interview was to create a clean, readable text without sacrificing the original language of the interview. Because written English differs from spoken English, the project adopted conventions to deal with the variations. No words have been added or changed, and no changes have been made in grammar or sentence structure. Words or short phrases added to clarify the text always appear in brackets; longer explanations will be placed in footnotes. Likewise, descriptions of non-verbal signs, such as nods of the head to indicate agreement or disagreement, have been noted in brackets. In preparing the text, the transcriber omitted false starts and filler words such as “ you know” or “um.” The transcript does not include language from the interviewer that is purely procedural (such as references to turning over the tape) or language that repeats or rephrases a question. No attempt was made to preserve the dialect or pronunciation of the interviewee since the original tapes are available for those interested in those aspects of the interview. (based on the methodology used by the Wisconsin Women During World War II Oral History Project)

Jennifer Elliott: Can you tell us a little about what your life was like before the war began?

Marian Mundorff: It was very nice, very nice. It was the tail end of the Depression, but it was nice.

JE: Where were you when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MM: At home. It was a Sunday afternoon, my father was listening to the radio and that’s when we heard about that.

JE: How did you react to the news of the bombing?

MM: I was stunned, I was only fourteen. I had had a friend there. I had really forgotten this. But when we had our fiftieth class reunion, she read a letter and said do you remember that I was at your house on Pearl Harbor day. But I really hadn’t remembered that. It was quite a shock and of course no one knew where Pearl Harbor was.

JE: How did your community respond to the bombing?

MM: I think we were all were in a state of shock, the whole country was.

JE: Did you notice any differences in your daily routine?

MM: Yes, right away they started having air raid practices and first aid classes. All those kinds of things for protection, home security, whatever you want to call it.

JE: With the black outs you were a messenger for that?

MM: Yes.

JE: What did that entail?

MM: Well actually I was stationed at a church and I don’t recall that there was ever anyone with me. Now that was supposed to be a first aid station, but I went there and stayed. Then when the all clear was, we went home. But that was scary, very scary when those alarms went off.

JE: Were there certain days that they would do it?

MM: No, no, never. Never knew when they were going to be.

JE: Where there any other war related activities that you were involved in?

MM: Well in scouts we had some first aid. My sister did a lot of knitting, for the Red Cross that she use to send me up to the Red Cross office to either deliver her sweaters or get her some more yarn. I don’t know if you know what a sack is. It’s a baby, kind of a little jacket and they were made out of flannel. They were pre-cut and they had transfers--the flowers and things on them to embroider and I picked up some of those. Now I was just a kid, but I did do that for the war effort. And also, the scouts used to go down to the hospital and make bandages.

JE: What level of school were you in during the war?

MM: That was ‘41, I guess I was fourteen. Ninth grade I guess.

JE: During the war did you notice changes in the school itself?

MM: Oh yes, some of the teachers were drafted. Some enlisted, I had three different math teachers in one year. It was very unnerving for someone who didn’t like to study. [laughter]

JE: Did your school participate in war effort activities?

MM: Oh yes, we had scrap drives and bond sales. Anything related to recycling for the war effort. Matter of fact, I have a tin can here [shows can] I just fixed it the other day. But this what we use to do with our tin cans, we opened it at both ends, stuck the ends in there, and squashed it. If you want it you can have it.

JE: Thank you. Talking about the changes in your daily life, did your family have a victory garden?

MM: We always had a garden, I wouldn’t say it was really a victory [laughs], but we had onions and beans and tomatoes and things like that, and then we had a couple fruit trees in the yard.

JE: I assume you all had rationing also?

MM: Oh yes, here I have my book. [shows rationing book]

JE: Were there things during the war that you might have wanted to go but could not because of rationing?

MM: Sugar was hard to get, meat was hard to get, shoes were hard to get. Gas was one of the number one things that was really rationed very closely. My father found out somewhere from someone that if you added naphtha to the gas you could get a few more miles out of it and he use to do that. He would put naphtha in with the gas. Even though he was a businessman who had a factory, he still only got a B ticket or sticker for on the car showing what class of rationing you were in.

JE: Going back to the black outs and air raids, how did you become involved in that?

MM: Through scouts.

JE: Did they just ask for volunteers?

MM: Uh-hum.

JE: Did you have any training for that?

MM: Well really if you know the town, it wasn’t as big as it is now and its still not that big. Nothing special other than our first aid, I had a little first aid. I could have been some help there besides being a messenger.

JE: Did you can your own foods?

MM: Yes, but we had always done that anyways.

JE: So it wasn’t much of a change?

MM: No.

JE: Did you feel that you were contributing to the war effort with each thing you were doing?

MM: Oh yeah, not only these tin cans if you wanted a tube of toothpaste. You had to take an empty back to the druggist. We got our toothpaste and things like that at the drug store at that particular time, they weren’t sold at grocery stores. They were made of a soft metal, I don’t know if it was tin or lead--it would hardly be lead because I would think that would be lead poisoning connected with that, so they were probably tin--but you had to return an empty tube before you could buy a fresh tube of toothpaste.

JE: Did any of your other family members participate in war effort activities or organizations?

MM: Oh yeah, my mother was a plane spotter. My father had had a heart attack so he didn’t take any physical activities in it. He had a factory, a family factory, and he made work shirts for the Navy during the war. Prior to that he had made work pants and jackets, lumber jackets and mackinaws and work shirts. Flannel work shirts. He had his own line of that.

JE: Your brother he went into the Navy?

MM: Yes.

JE: How did your family react to that?

MM: Well, he went right out of college. He was a pre-ministerial student and he went on to seminary. I think the program was called V-12--I am not exactly sure but I think that was what it was called, it didn’t last a long time--but he went through seminary on that program and he was in the Navy for about twenty-five to twenty-seven years I guess. He made a career out of it.

JE: What was the name of your father’s business?

MM: Snelbaker Manufacturing Company.

JE: While your brother was in the Navy were you able to have contact with him, writing letters?

MM: Oh yes, and he was newly married at that time too.

JE: Did you send any packages to him at all?

MM: I’m sure my folks did, I didn’t. I wrote to him, but I didn’t send him anything. I’m sure they did though. I know in the summertime daddy would send peaches.

JE: Do you remember V-E and V-J Day?

MM: Oh yeah, I got a war job the day that was V-J Day. Down here at the depot and I had never spent a day at work what I did was go to school there. But I had been diagnosed with a lung tumor in my senior year and it was growing very rapidly and I waited all that summer for a chance to get in the hospital. Then right after I got my job I got a notice that there was a vacancy at the hospital, so I never really did become an employee, although I did work for my dad part time.

JE: Were there lots of celebrations going on around here?

MM: Everybody was out yippee and all that kind of stuff, but it wasn’t anything like you saw in New York. It was probably pretty rambunctious maybe in Harrisburg, I don’t know. But here in town, everyone just came out of their houses and were very, very excited. A lot of people lost friends and relatives—[they were] glad to see it was over.

JE: Did your family and you keep a close watch on what was going on in the war like listening to the news, any newspapers?

MM: Oh yeah.

JE: Did your school do it also?

MM: To a certain extent we did. We had certain school newspapers we would subscribe to and we would go over the articles.

JE: Did you spend time on it in class?

MM: It was in class.

JE: Did your school have any programs or assemblies after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MM: Not special that I recall. Everyone in school was involved in the war effort by bringing in scraps like the tin cans. They even collected broken records and they recycled those. I don’t know what they made out of them but they gathered those to. Scrap metal like old cars or parts of boilers. I know that my dad had to have the boiler replaced at the factory and he donated that. And of course, our room won the contests.

JE: I was going to ask if you had contests to see who could have the most collections.

MM: Yes. We did that with war bonds, too. We sold stamps--they were ten cents apiece. Saving stamps--you got a little folder and you could buy as many saving stamps as you had money for. When you got $18.50 you got a twenty-five dollar bond.

JE: Did your community have any war effort programs such as Civilian Defense?

MM: Oh yeah. I guess that was what I was thinking of when I said home security, but that’s fresh in my mind.

JE: Going back to the black outs what did you have to do at home with those?

MM: All the lights had to be out, no lights at all, nothing. Not a candle, not anything.

JE: How did you feel during those, were you scared?

MM: Yes its scary and you don’t know they are coming. All of a sudden all these alarms go off and you have to run.

JE: When there weren’t black outs was there a certain time the lights have to go out or did your family have precautions such as using black curtains?

MM: We didn’t use black curtains at home, we just turned the lights out. I guess there were people who made them. Public buildings, some of them put up the black curtains. But we didn’t do that.

JE: Was there anything you wanted to add?

MM: I wanted to tell you to buy a pair of shoes you had to use ration stamps. I was always very hard on shoes so my dad was always giving me his coupons. Oh, I brought my yearbooks down, mostly to show you how the quality of these deteriorated. Now this was my class [shows yearbook], and that’s cloth and it wasn’t even finished in time that we got it when school ended. We got hardly any autographs—there are a few in here—we had to go back in the middle of the summer to pick them up, and of course, not everyone was there. I think we only had nine of the boys left for commencement. The rest of them all were in the service. Now all of these other ones, you can see how nice they were, and ours was like paperback.


MM: I told you that mother was a plane spotter, she really enjoyed that. She always came home with a fresh batch of jokes.

JE: How long would she be out there? Was there a certain time limit?

MM: I don’t remember what her schedule was, I think she went once a month. They had to stay a certain number of hours and she was usually gone for most of the day for that. There use to be a lot of planes go across here, they would travel in bunches not just single planes. Because we have that all the time, lots of fighters and stuff. Of course Olmstead [Air Field] was right down here and New Cumberland and of course our Navy depot but that has nothing to do with air. I think that’s really the soul and substance of what I have to tell you.

[end of interview]

Jennifer Elliott, "Marian Mundorff, July 17, 2002," in the Elizabeth V. and George F. Gardner Digital Library,, (accessed Month Day, Year).

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